Straight From the Elephant’s Mouth

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So it’s like this: The human quarters at Londolozi game reserve are cordoned off by a thin electric wire, which doesn’t do much to discourage antelopes and monkeys—or for that matter, lions and leopards—but which does keep elephants from wandering in.

At least, that’s the idea.

More than a year ago, one bull elephant figured out how to pull down the wire and get into the camp, where he binges on the lovingly tended flower and vegetable gardens. He became such a regular visitor that the Londolozi residents took to calling him “Night Shift.”

Months ago, in an attempt to keep the elephant at bay, the staff added additional wires to the fence. Night Shift learned to uproot fence poles. Gaps in the fence, where cars drive through, are protected by metal grills on which most animals won’t walk; Night Shift has recently been seen daintily tiptoeing—all six tons of him—across the grills. Night Shift has caused tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of damage, and though he’s never harmed anyone, an African bull elephant looming up in the dark at close range could seriously freak someone out.

On Monday I was discussing this problem with Bronwyn, Boyd, and Shan Varty, three-fourths of the family who run Londolozi. Not far away, workers were reinstating several fence poles that Night Shift had merrily flicked aside the night before. At their wits’ end, the Vartys were wondering whether they should have the elephant relocated to some other part of Africa.

This is one reason I love the Vartys so much: when I suggested that we call a highly intuitive friend, who has been known to give accurate readings and predictions, they went for it. Within minutes, we’d made the call and Night Shift was coming in loud and clear. Here is part of the conversation that followed, verbatim (except for the gales of laughter that followed every message Night Shift supposedly sent).

Friend: “He wants his own camp.”

Us: “Could you please tell him that’s not feasible?”

Friend: “He understands.”

Us: “Will he please stop breaking in at night?”

Friend: “No. He loves people. Londolozi is his special project.”

Us: “Ooooh-kaaaay. Can we come to some sort of compromise?”

Friend: “He wants a sweet spot.”

Us: “A ‘sweet spot’? What the hell does that mean?”

Friend: “Oranges.”

Us: “He wants oranges?”

Friend: “He LOVES oranges. Also people.”orange

At this point, the other one-fourth of the Varty clan, patriarch Dave, walked onto the veranda. “Did you know Night Shift is in the front garden?” he said casually.

Without a word of consultation, everyone dashed into the kitchen, grabbed some oranges, and rushed out to the front garden. Sure enough, there was Night Shift, eating bushes.

Boyd began bowling oranges toward the elephant, applying plenty of elbow grease to get them through the tall grass. Don’t try this at home. Generally, you should expect wild elephants to react with alarm, if not aggression, should you start hurling objects toward them. Not Night Shift. He pounced on the oranges like a kid grabbing candy from a broken piñata, popping them into his mouth and scrunching joyfully, the way you might eat a Tic-Tac.

When we ran out of oranges, Night Shift wandered away (and I grabbed a camera to shoot the picture above). Our intuitive friend contacted us to communicate one more message: “Thanks!”

The next morning, Night Shift had uprooted no fewer than eight new fence posts. But as I lefft Londolozi, instead of stocking up on snub-nosed bullets or tranquilizer darts, the Vartys were assembling a big mesh bag filled with oranges. They’re trying to decide where to place them so that monkeys and baboons won’t get them and Night Shift will recognize them as fair trade for his leaving fences and gardens where they are. I’m sure they’ll figure it out in the end, because this is Londolozi, a term that in Zulu means “protector of all living things.”

For the camp’s sake, I hope Night Shift moves on quickly, or at least modifies his “special project” to make it less expensive for his beloved humans. But for my own sake, I’m thrilled he was here, busting in, making trouble, and requesting oranges from people just zany enough to grant his wish. As always, this is one spot where magic is not suppressed, and that makes me believe my own wishes can be magically granted as well.

Photos From the Force

29389_397518406432_693576432_4513608_7445033_n_2This is the most fabulous life I’ve ever had, but oh, my, is it busy! Sometimes I feel like Lucy Ricardo in the chocolate factory, juggling projects with both hands, carrying several in my teeth, dropping dozens. I suspect you know how this feels. In the age of speedspeedspeedspeedspeed, we’re all struggling to keep our balance.

But at least, I believe, we have some help.

Y’all know I left the company of dignified rationalists long ago, that I see life as a mystical adventure. The photo shoot reminded me of this, because recently, small miracles have been happening for me with photographs. Here’s one of them, which I’m telling just because it lifted my spirit.

During my April trip to Africa I decided to mentally “called” a cheetah, since I haven’t seen one for years. For a week, we saw no hint of cheetah activity; as Mark Twain put it, “no hair nor no next of skin.” Oh, well, I thought. The universe isn’t hostile. It’s just not all that forthcoming. Kind of like the post office.

At the very end of our final game drive, I finally gave up looking for cheetahs (the phrase “I gave up” is key: we manifest only what we surrender). We drove up a hill to take in one last view. As we gazed over the savannah, our tracker saw a tiny square of white about a mile away. It was the chest of a cheetah who’d climbed a termite mound! We tore over there and found the cheetah tucked in the shadows, looking reluctant, like a post-office employee.

I decided this did not qualify as a miracle, even a small one. I went to cheetah territory, asked experts to help me track cheetah, and they found a cheetah. A wonderful human accomplishment, but nothing magical about it.

Just then, another Land Rover zoomed up in a spray of gravel. It carried a single guest: my friend (and Teammate) Kelly Eide. Minutes before, she’d been sound asleep. Then a loud, persistent gang of monkeys began pounding on the roof of her room. She woke up thinking, “Oh my gosh, there’s a cheetah out there that I have to photograph!” She leaped out of bed, grabbed a camera, and ran through the lodge yelling, “Where’s a ranger? I have to photograph a cheetah!” The ranger she found thought she’d lost her mind, but he and Kelly got to our cheetah sighting just in time for her to snap some great shots. Now those pictures (including the one at the top of this post) are here to remind me: We really do have help.

Fellow Airport Hobo

Just when you think you’re the only person who feels the way you do, you see someone you just know is having to cope with all the same life stresses. I have no idea who this woman is, but I take great comfort in her very existence: A fellow Airport Hobo. Makes me well right up.

Have A Plan — And Be Willing To Change It

I spent April in Africa and like the song says, it was the most confounding trip I ever took. Almost everything I was scheduled to do fell through.  I got stuck in massive power outages, sat in 5-hour traffic delays, and waited in airports filled with sweaty, frustrated passengers.  People I love broke limbs.  Iceland, for heaven’s sake, invaded Europe and stranded about half the people I encountered as I traveled around. 

Because I hit so many snafus, I heard something over and over again that seems particularly South African.  “No worries,” someone would say when it was obvious we had worries.  “We’ll make a plan.”

I found this phrase almost magically comforting.  It sums up everything positive about humanity — that whole trip through the accident-prone, bedeviled “hero’s saga” that’s told in a million variations by people all over our planet.

The moment you say, “No worries, we’ll make a plan,” is the moment you let go of the old plan. You come back to the reality of the present moment — the stalled traffic, the missed plane, the broken arm, the eruption of some unpronounceable volcano — and surrender to death and rebirth.  Then you dream up a new scheme, and launch the hero’s saga, whether you call it Option B, or C. or R. You just keep making plans until the plan works.
 
As often mystifying as this trip was, it’s also reassuring to think that something as simple as making plans is what prevented me from totally losing my marbles.  So the next time you find yourself wondering just how you’re ever going to get from here to there, take a tip from my South African friends and simply make a plan.

Go Ahead, Ask For Help!

just because it isn't this...

By and large, things aren’t nearly as bad as we think they are. Our futures aren’t as chancy, our financial survival not as precarious, our detractors not as ferocious as we fear. But sometimes, when we get really stumped, bigstockphoto_Gecko_1312020we have good reason.

This has happened to me with vlogs. About a month ago I made a bunch of ‘em, thinking I’d upload them while I was in Africa. I spent many hours—MANY hours—trying. It didn’t work well. I confess that there were moments I believed the entire electrical supply grid of Africa is run by an elderly woman peddling a bicycle treadmill.

Then I got home, talked to my fabulous media coach, and discovered that I was having trouble uploading because of a glitch in the code that links my whobertube thingamajig to alwaysonwhatchamacallit, or words to that effect.

The following video, which I taped in Africa, shows my friend Bronwyn and her brother Boyd talking about a woman who had a Justifiable Problem. I hope you enjoy it, and remember that it’s okay to ask for help when you’re stumped, because sometimes you really can’t be expected to handle everything alone.

United By Dork Fears We Waddle

Not all Zulu dancers look equally cool.

Last week I attended a marvelous birthday bash for my South African friend Sal Roux. Sal threw her party at a game preserve called Phinda, in a “sand forest” where the trees stand like cathedral pillars under an eerie green canopy, and you never know how many animal eyes are watching as you pad your way through the soft soil.

When I unpacked at Phinda, I had a sickening realization: I’d left my formal shoes in Johannesburg. Sal doesn’t do anything by halves, so I knew her birthday banquet would be a black-tie affair. I’d brought a couple of halfway-acceptable outfits, but now I had no shoes to go with them. My usual bush footwear—brown cowboy boots—just wouldn’t do. Luckily, I had a backup pair of flat black slippers, although, because they were slightly too big, I had to bulk out my feet with a pair of brown socks. That way they at least stayed on my feet, though I had to curl my toes and sort of waddle to avoid stepping right out of them.

“It’s really dark,” I kept reassuring my ego. “It’s the middle of the African bush. No one will be looking down.”

My ego was not convinced. It kept glancing down and seeing this:
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As I neared the game lodge where the party was getting started, the darkness was split by a deafening drumbeat. The forest went from silent to deafening as a group of Zulu dancers, in full traditional dress, began dancing and singing around the arriving guests. The dancers’ animal-hide headdresses and loincloths flashed in the torchlight. Once my heart started beating again, I thought they were wonderful.

Then I got to the lodge and saw all the other female party-goers bent over, brushing sand off their feet before strapping on high heeled sandals and pumps. Such shoes are about as functional in a sand forest as a paper snorkel, so everyone seemed to be apologizing for various malfunctions affecting their Jimmy Choos.

Remember, I was wearing socks.

Everyone else had the right shoes

Thick, brown socks.

In desperation, I found a seat near the Zulu dancers and tried to tuck my feet into a shadow. The dancers were truly amazing. Each of them burned more calories that evening than I did during the entire 1990s. But as I watched them more closely, I noticed something: A lot of them were subtly adjusting their headdresses and leggings. They took turns dancing solos, and some of them seemed a little klutzier than others, and these people clearly knew it. The klutzes would return to their place among the other dancers looking as if they’d welcome a leopard attack, as long as it distracted attention from their missteps.

Zulu-dance

In that moment, with my gaze swinging between the self-conscious Zulu dancers and the self-conscious high-heel wearers, I had an epiphany: All humans are united, no matter how great our differences, by our fear of looking dorky.

In an instant, this changed my view of other times and cultures. I could see other African dancers getting dressed before history began, asking their friends, “Do you really think the kudu skin goes with the porcupine quills? Isn’t it kind of too much?” I pictured ancient Americans saying, “Uh, Bison Flower, hasn’t anyone told you not to wear elk teeth after the green corn moon?” I can imagine a moment when the 12th-century Japanese Shogun realized his armor no longer fit around the middle, and that in that moment he strongly considered ritual suicide.

This revelation was deeply comforting. I felt new kinship with people from all times and places who ended up in their culture’s equivalent of brown socks at a sparkling black-tie event. I took a deep breath, watched a Zulu dancer furtively adjusting his impala-skin loincloth, and waddled out to join the rest of humanity in our common sea of appalling insecurity.

All is Futile Because I Can’t Find My Pants

bigstockphoto_Women_s_Pants_4992160Because I flit around the globe fairly frequently, people tend to assume I’m one of those good-to-go, Eat-Pray-Love-To-Travel kind of girls. I am not. My favorite fantasy is that I can just beam myself places á la Star Trek, nestling into my own bed every single night and a large portion of every day.

But once I’m traveling, I try to bloom where I’m planted, despite jetlag and disorientation. By and large, I do all right. This is especially true in the African bush, where I feel deeply relaxed despite days that begin as early as 3:00 a.m. and continue as late as midnight.

This scheduling isn’t masochism, just a fascination with animals both diurnal and nocturnal. The last evening I was at Londolozi, my friends and I were prepping dinner when we heard that two male leopards were squaring off for a fight nearby. Everyone sprinted to an open Land Rover, leaving the food on the table. We spent the next hour gazing at the incredibly brilliant stars and drinking mini-bar liqueurs while the leopards thrashed around us in the tall grass, growling at each other.

Sleep? Who needs it?

As it turns out, I do.

During my two weeks in Africa I have slept, by my own calculation, for approximately seventeen minutes. That said, it must be noted that “my own calculation” is none too trustworthy. I can tell you this for certain, because I cannot find my pants.

They’re my favorite pants—you know, that one perfect pair of black pants that fits well, doesn’t need ironing, and can go from casual to formal with a few accessories? Such pants are like soulmate; you don’t find them more than once or twice in a lifetime. I wore my special pants all day yesterday while training some wonderful coaches and having dinner with friends. After that I was so tired I don’t remember getting back to my hotel. When I woke up, my shoes, blouse, and jacket were on the floor by my bed. But my pants are gone. I’ve pawed through my luggage a dozen times, searched every inch of my hotel room.

No pants.

You know, it’s impossible to predict what’s going to break the camel’s back.

This month I’ve heard tales of anti-Apartheid heroism, I toured a hospital where a patient casually toted a jug that was stuck through his chest wall so his punctured lung wouldn’t collapse, and spent an hour teaching a 15-year-old orphan who’s holding her family together with nothing but hope and grit. I heard by “bush telegram” (word-of-mouth) that Iceland went postal on Europe. I’ve handled this all with deep breaths, optimism, and a smile.

But my favorite pants going AWOL—well, that’s just too much.

Worse than the wrenching loss and the terrible fear of never ever ever finding such a great pair of pants again, is my utter bewilderment. What the hell happened to them? My addled brain keeps going through the possibilities:

• In my sleep-deprived madness, I could have had some sort of wild fling in the hotel elevator. If so, it seems deeply unfair that I can’t remember it.

• Perhaps as I was undressing, I hallucinated a dragon coming in through the open window, and defended myself—as one does—by hurling my pants at it.

• Extremely tired people do weird things in their sleep (I have an insomniacal friend who awoke one morning to find approximately 500 “Thank you for your order!” emails from Amazon.com). For all I know, I gave my pants to the maid as a tip.

• Perhaps my subconscious self hates globe-trotting, and stuffed my favorite travel pants into the hotel ventilation system reasoning that without them, I’ll just stay home.

• Maybe I ate them.

At any rate, they’re gone, and this on top of the anti-Apartheid stories and the punctured-lung jug and the orphans and Iceland LITERALLY invading Europe…well, it just makes me want to lie down and suck my thumb forever.

I’m so grateful for my happy, itinerant life. I know you’re grateful for the good in your life as well. But sometimes we wake up and our pants are inexplicably gone, and at those times, it’s okay to be weak. It’s okay to slump to the floor in a hotel robe, pound the carpet, and, yes, use strong language. It’s okay to feel that of all the massive natural and man-made disasters in the world, the bizarre disappearance of our own personal favorite pants is for us, at that moment, by far the worst.

All right, enough whining. It’s time to pull myself together, regain perspective, and prepare for another really lovely event, which I will experience through the light haze of a waking REM doze. It’s time to be thankful that I have other pants—inferior ones, but pants—to wear in place of my bygone favorites.

And I am thankful. I truly am. Just please, God, let my underwear be where I left it.

I’m Creaning Up My Mind in 2010

poisonous-evil-rubbish

Hello, dreamy friends!

As you know from our frequent conversations, I’m a HUGE lover of Asian philosophy (though I am trying to take off a few pounds).  Finding the world’s wisest book, the Tao te Ching, was one of the two good things that came from my naive college decision to major in Chinese, a language for which I have the aptitude of a potato.

The other good thing was my early and continuing exposure to a phenomenon known as Japlish, Chingrish, or Engrish, depending on your source.  Recently, I found the meaning of life expressed so concisely in a few words of Engrish that the Tao te Ching now seems overdone by comparison.  Allow me to explain.

Engrish for All

On both sides of the Pacific Ocean, humans are busily slapping foreign words on T-shirts, signs, bags, and magazines, with only the vaguest idea what these words actually mean.  Asians love the look of certain English words, as we love the look of Asian characters.  But we often use these words without quite catching the nuance of native speakers.  For example:

take-my-head

Thus it is that early ads selling Coca Cola in China bore characters (chosen by Americans) that were supposed to recommend a refreshing beverage, but actually said “”Bite the Wax Tadpole!”  Pepsi, not to be outdone, ran ads trumpeting, “Come alive, you’re in the Pepsi generation!”  which really said “Pepsi will make your ancestors come back from the dead.”  This made Chinese consumers uneasy in the same way this Chinese sign unnerves Americans:

smiling-grass

When I lived in Singapore, I thrilled to daily doses of Chinglish, like the whippy marketing slogans on my favorite brand of toilet paper (“Clean Grape Toilet Tissue: It’s sturdy and tenacious!”) and my South Winds water cooler (“When we hear the voice of the south wind, we always meet with happy chances.  Now is the time!  Let your hot heart swing with it together!  Good luck!”).

After returning from Asia, I missed all the happy chances that made my hot heart swing with it together.  But now, thanks to a website called “Engrish.com,” we can all enjoy the fount of wisdom that comes from randomly swapping Asian/English words.

It was on this site that I found the meaning of life stated with such poetic brevity that it took my breath away.  Here it is:

my-mind-is-paralyzed

This bag is my new scripture, my latest memoir, and my motto for 2010.  It is changing my life, and it can change yours too.

My Rife-Changing Resorution

For as long as we’ve known one another, you’ll recall, I’ve made just one New Year’s resolution each year–but I always keep that resolution.  Try this only if you cope well with change, because it will make over your life like the Oprah Show on steroids.

For example, my 1990 resolution was not to tell a single lie for the entire year.  This immediately cost me the vast majority of my relationships, plus my career, my home, and my religion.  The only thing I got back—myself—barely seemed worth it.  (But things worked out well.  I gradually began to tolerate, then grudgingly accepted myself.  Flash forward: myself and I moved in together, and now I just can’t imagine how I got along without myself!  We’re, like, practically the same person!)

So this year I couldn’t wait to open my resolution.  I started a little early, on my birthday, about six weeks ago.

MyBDay

This year’s resolution?  During 2010, I will question any thought that causes me any kind of unpleasant sensation whatsoever.

Revorutionary Thinking

Now, I’ve been questioning my painful thoughts for years, but until recently there were so many it didn’t even occur to me that I could get rid of ALL of them.  It would have been like performing a whole-body electrolysis on Sasquatch.  Which could easily happen at this spa in Thailand.

damn-hairy-and-spa

But that’s another story.

My point here is that toward the end of 2009, I noticed my negative thoughts slowing down, thinning out, and becoming more obviously absurd, like the elderly grayhound pictured below.  So I decided it was worth attempting to eliminate them entirely.

elderly greyhound

My recent negative thoughts.

Total Tolerance for No Tolerance

My resolution is basically a “no tolerance” policy for thoughts that caused me to feel trapped in any degree of suffering.  (Quick reminder:  I believe the fact that a thought causes suffering is evidence it’s false, and that questioning such thoughts until their untruth is obvious clears them out of the mind, thus setting the thinker free.)

Ironically, the most important step in dissolving a thought is to love it unreservedly as if it’s a brand new baby.  So my 2010 policy is absolute tolerance of all thoughts for which I have no tolerance.  This may sound odd, but as the following masterpiece emphasizes, it’s always a natural and it exists!

pure-love-girl

So for weeks, I’ve been noticing every negative thought and taking a few minutes to question it lovingly until it dissolves, like Jack Bauer handling a terrorist.

I’ve found that this causes the running verbal commentary in my mind to stop.  And in the absence of thinking, just as all those wacky mystics have been telling us for centuries, the simple perception of what is present fills one’s awareness with a strangely vibrant stillness.  Truly, my mind is paralyzed, and it is a delightful day!  There is…how shall I say…no hullabaloo!

no-hullabaloo

 

Everything Is Silly

I’d love it if you joined me in my 2010 resolution.  But I must warn you:  If you decide to question your thoughts, expect to spend more and more of your time laughing.  When I completely accept a thought that makes me sad, mad, or scared, it generally starts to seem amusing almost immediately.

For example, when I have a sorrowful thought, I allow it to be by reminding it of this incisive Asian aphorism:

defy-the-keen

When I’m frightened, I quote to my scared self the riveting, evocative prose from another Japanese handbag:

trembled-with-for-fear

And when I burn with rage over the malfeasance of other drivers in traffic, the inconsideration of acquaintances, or the whole Tiger Woods thing, I find solace and fellowship by reading this sign from a home in Southeast Asia:

listen-to-mee

As I regard these testaments to negative human emotions, I realize that my darkest thoughts probably seem equally ridiculous to a state of being that speaks the language of pure presence.  I experience anew the powerful truth of impermanence, summed up here so compellingly:

powder

And almost immediately, I am at peace.

For the Love of Truth

I made my “no lies” resolution after a surgery where I encountered the White Light people sometimes describe after near-death experiences.  What surprised me most about this overwhelming experience of love and truth was that the White Light and I spent almost all our time together laughing like there was no tomorrow.  Because, of course, there really is no tomorrow.  There is only now, and even the concept of “tomorrow” is Engrish to anyone who lives outside of time. I think all spiritual masters, human or luminous, find our mental resistance to reality adorably hilarious.

Long ago, Asian philosophy brought me to the idea that our mental stories are the source of suffering.  Now I find that dissolving every negative thought really does fill me with jolliness.  And if I ever begin to think otherwise, I  only need to glance at a trans-Pacific handbag to remind me.  May you too, my dreamy friend, have a year made up of delightful days.

mckinleybag

The Language of Letting Go

(Of All Hope of Sounding Comprehensible)

Well, I’m back in the States again after another amazing trip to South Africa.  I had a wonderful time connecting with many of our fabulous SA coaches, helping run the wilderness STAR (Self-Transformation Adventure Retreat) and beta-testing a plan to help some brilliant educators transform a small African village.

sa flag lion cubs zebras drinking

It’s always a bit of a bummer to be an American overseas, because everyone else seems to have been brought up in a regular Babel of linguistic influences, and they all speak a little of this, a tad of that.  It’s bad enough in Europe, where the local lingos, whatever they are, at least have English cognates.  In South Africa, everyone but me seems to speak approximately 80 languages, none of them remotely similar to anything I’ve ever heard.

To remedy this situation, I am once again trying to Teach Myself Zulu.  I’m serious.  I ordered some Teach Yourself Zulu CDs from Amazon.com and everything.

teach self zulu

The first CD is sobering; not only is Zulu from a language family about which I know nothing (Bantu), it’s also a tonal language AND a click dialect.  The concept of tones is fine with me, since I’ve studied Chinese.  But the clicks are going to be a real challenge.  I’ve asked click-dialect speakers to help me pronounce Zulu words, and after a few repetitions they always look at me with despair in their eyes, like people trying to teach a chicken to knit.

Fortunately, my Teach Yourself CDs have a careful description of all the click variations in Zulu.  Some South African languages are so click-laden that native speakers sound as if they’re simultaneously talking and operating tiny keyboards with their tonsils.  Zulu, I’m glad to report, has only three basic clicks, each of which has four variations.  I couldn’t distinguish between the variations to get out of hot-tubbing with Dick Cheney.

cheney and queen

Fortunately, the three basic clicks are described in Teach Yourself Zulu with a cozy clarity that makes a lot of sense.  To wit:

The first click, says the instructor on my CD (who sounds like Queen Elizabeth with an Afrikaans accent) is “the sound many people make when annoyed.” I know the sound I make when annoyed: it’s a high, whimpering gasp, like a dog who desperately wants something it is not allowed to have.  “Hnnng, hnng, hnng, hnng.”  Like that.  Good.  One down, two to go.

The second click, says Queen Elizabeth, is “the sound a cork makes popping out of a bottle.” This is vaguely familiar to me, but I’m at a disadvantage because I grew up Mormon, and never heard a cork popping out of a bottle until I was past the language-development years.  So I’ll make the sound of a cap coming off a root beer bottle: “PFFFFfffff.”  I figure that will do.

The third Zulu click, according to Queen Elizabeth, is (I am not making this up) “the sound commonly made when urging a horse.”  I assume this means a horse that one is riding.  The sound I make to urge a horse I’m riding is as follows:  “Please don’t run please don’t run DON’T RUN!  STOP!  STAY!  SIT! HELP!

So this is how my Zulu practice dialogue would sound if you translated the meaning into English:

MARTHA’S ZULU PRACTICE DIALOGUE

“Good morning, Queen Elizabeth PLEASE DON’T RUN!  So nice to see you hnnng hnnng hnnng.”

“Good morning, Mr. Cheney PFFFfffff.  I would like to hnnng hnnng hnnng buy some edible grubs SIT! HELP! such as those I have seen DON’T RUN! on the PFFFfffff Discovery Channel hnnng hnnng hnnng.”

“Of course PFFFfffff, madame STOP!  HELP!  Would you hnnng hnnng hnnng like a large one PFFFfffff?”

“I’d prefer PLEASE DON’T RUN! two small ones hnnng hnnng hnnng PFFFffff.”

“An excellent PFFFfff choice, madame SIT! STAY!  The large ones sometimes pupate hnnng hnnng hnnng if not refrigerated HELP!  SIT! PFFFffff.”

And so on.

grubs

I just can’t wait to show my Zulu-speaking friends how much I’ve learned!  I’m sure they’ll be motivated by the amount of progress I’ve made, in the sense that teaching chickens to knit will suddenly seem easy by comparison teaching me to talk.

So now I must go practice my clicks.  A huge thank-you to all my dear friends around the world for their tolerance, generosity, and companionship.  The network of the Tribe wraps itself all the way around this delicate planet of ours, and I am so grateful.